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LECTURE 7 NOTE B.—P. 276.

DR. MARTINEAU AS A TRINITARIAN.

Dr. advocating Trinitarianism is a veritable Saul among the prophets. Yet this is the drift of his striking essay (first 462published as late as 1886) on “A Way Out of the Trinitarian controversy.” The object of the essay is to find a way of reconciling the differences of Unitarians and Trinitarians, which Dr. Martineau thinks might be accomplished if parties only came better to understand each other. He says, with great truth, “Religious doctrine may be only theory to the critic, but it is the expression of fact to the believer—fact infinite and ever present, the vital breath of every moment, deprived of which the soul must gasp and die. . . . It is from the depth of such natures that theology and churches arise; and if you would harmonise them when they seem discordant, you must descend into the depths; you must feel their truth ere you criticise their errors, and appreciate their difference before you can persuade them that they are one. . . . To feel charity towards a sin, you must understand the temptation; towards a sorrow, you must know its depths; towards an erring creed, you must appreciate its meaning and its ground” (Essay ii. pp. 626, 627). In this spirit he aims at setting forth what he conceives to be the truth about the Trinity.

The intention is excellent, but the success of the attempt must be pronounced doubtful. It is, however, exceedingly interesting as coming from Dr. Martineau. For his thought leads him to recognise a certain real Trinitarian distinction in God; and, so far as one can judge, he does not object even to Trinitarians speaking of these distinctions as in a sense personal. The gist of his view is expressed in the following passages: “God then, as He exists in Himself ere Heat all appears,—God alone with the void,—God as a still presence,—a starless night, a dumb immensity of intellect, is intended by the First Person in the received creed. Let now the silence be broken, let the thought burst into expression, fling out the poem of creation, evolving its idea in the drama of history, and reflecting its own image in the son of man; then this manifested phase of the; divine existence is the Son. . . . The one fundamental idea by which the two personalities are meant to be distinguished is simply this—that the first is God in His primeval essence,—infinite meaning without finite indications; the second is God speaking out in phenomena and fact, and leaving His sign whenever anything comes up from the deep of things, or merges back again. . . . Respecting the Third Person in the Trinity, and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, . . . the separation of His personality from the others, as not proper to be merged in them, is founded on a feeling deep and true, viz., that the human spirit is not a mere part of nature. . . . We are persuaded of something diviner within us than this—akin in. freedom, in power, in love, to the supreme Mind Himself. I virtue of this prerogative, we have to be otherwise provided for, in our highest life, than the mere products of creative order; we need not control, simply to be imposed and obeyed, but living communion like with like, spirit with spirit. To open this communion, to bring this help and sympathy, to breathe on the fading consciousness of our heavenly affinity, and make us one with the Father an the Son, is the function, truly of a quite special kind, reserved in 463the doctrine of the Church for the Holy Ghost. What God is in Himself; what He is as manifested in the universe and history, thought to a focus in the drama of Redemption; what He is in communion with our inner spirit,—these are the three points of view denoted by the ‘Persons’ of the Trinity” (pp. 332, 334, 336). The “Eternal Sonship” he connects with the doctrine of eternal creation The most paradoxical part of the essay is where he seeks to prove that the Unitarians, while imagining they were worshipping the “Father,” have all the while been worshipping the “Son”—that the Father “is really absent from the Unitarian Creed” p. 536). After the remarks in last note, it is not necessary to say much in criticism of this theory. It is, after all, only a modal theory—the substituting of “phases” and “points of view” for the orthodox “Persons.” The distinction of “Father” and “Son” is that of the hidden and the revealed God; and the “Son” has His raison d’etre in the existence of a world. There is no room for a special Incarnation. The “Son” is manifested in Jesus not otherwise than He is manifested in all history—only in higher (or highest) degree. But it has already been pointed out that this identification of the “Father” with God in Himself, “dormant potency,” “still presence,” “dumb immensity of intellect,” has no resemblance to the Christian idea of the Father. Dr. Martineau goes here on an altogether wrong track. His theory does not express the Christian facts.

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